Hello, BOOKDRAGONS and welcome back to my little spot in the universe. October has been a magical, pumpkin spiced and wanderlust-full month. This year for the first time I had such a magical and monster oriented month where my travels, my movie nights and my reads have been so amerced in the spirit of all things supernatural and it was so gooooood.
Keeping up with that I decided to pick up the ultimate horror story and boy, did I realize how big a misconception I had about this book! Frankenstein is everything else but a horror story but let’s not get ahead of our selves.
Growing up in Bulgaria, where our literature classes have very different, mostly East European oriented reading lists, I wasn’t familiar with the story of Frankenstein. Of course, as a lot of people, I thought this is the name of a monster that came back to life and terrorized the local village. This year the time came to learn how wrong I was and devour this groundbreaking English novel. This article is dedicated to my first read of the legendary Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
For those of you, who don’t know the story, here is a little summary and for those of you who know it – skip the next two paragraphs. Victor Frankenstein is young and ambitions but a highly misguided scientist who creates a monster from human remains he brought back to life. His ghastly creation runs away and tries to fit in with the human kind but when he realized that people will rather kill him than be his friends, he becomes violent and decides that he can only be loved by someone like him. With that in mind, he finds Frankenstein and threatens him to destroy his life unless he makes him a wife.
The story is told by the third main character – Robert Walton, a captain of a ship who finds Victor Frankenstein surrounded by ice at the North Pole. After saving his life, they both become very fond of each other and Victor tells him his miserable tale. Robert, so fascinated by his new best friend, writes everything in letters he sends to his sister. That is how we learn the story of Frankenstein.
That kind of approach took me by surprise. The surprise was good because this sort of third-person take on things makes Walton the face of the reader – we hear the story together and we have to learn the valuable lesson that playing God and being ambitions can have devastating consequences.
The character of Frankenstein goes through huge changes – from a brilliant young man, who is so curious and ambitions to discover the secrets of life to a broken mad scientist who wants nothing more than the sweet relief of death. His story has to serve as a cautionary tale to every young mind who dares to be arrogant and overly ambitious.
The instability of his psychological health made me wonder if this man wasn’t indeed suffering from one or more mental disorders. As the story progressed I began to see more and more narcissistic tendencies combined with hysteria. From the very beginning, Frankenstein describes himself as a miracle bestowed upon his parent to love and nurture to the level of complete adoration. The character of Elizabeth as a representation of innocence is the only woman deserving of his company who is there only to be his. He is incapable to create any other meaningful relationships besides the ones from his childhood with people who simply adore him. It is no wonder that he attempts to play God and create a new species. But when things go sideways, he runs away like a child, incapable to take any responsibility, trying to pretend his biggest failure never happened.
Every time Victor communicates with the monster, he falls ill, on the verge of going mad and he is solely depended on his family or Henry to take care of him. His inability to handle his failure causes him to silence his guilt over all the lives the monster ruins. As a narcissist, he sees his creations as a mirror of his own dark soul, fearing that like Dr. Jekyll he let louse the most awful and yet truthful version of himself.
The monster, despite his murderous crimes, is presented in a much better light. He is smart, adaptive and compassionate. Unlike Frankenstein, who lives in isolation because no one is proven worthy of his attention, his monster strives the company of others and despises how different he is from them. Like a child of a narcissist, he has to learn and grow by watching and copying others, who can provide a better example of love, family, devotion, and compassion. Seeing how other people take care of each other makes him angrier at Frankenstein, who created him only to abandon him. When he is rejected again by his substitute family, he goes on a vengeful mission to destroy his creator.
When he encounters a woman for the first time, his damaged psyche tells him that he will never have a partner who can love him, unless she is like him. So here begins his new plan – to manipulate Frankenstein to make him a wife. That gives him another reason to stay close to his ‘father’, which he still wants despite the fact that he is abandoned and hated by him. However, when Victor destroys his last hope for companionship in front of him, his rage and vengefulness are released and cannot be stopped. Killing Frankenstein’s friend and wife is the payback he has to serve.
At this point, both characters realize they have to destroy one another in order to find peace. Frankenstein doesn’t die by the hand of his creation but his death is the relief the monster needs before he himself can dye.
The third and only character who meets both Frankenstein and his monster and survives to tell about it is Walton. He shows similarities to Frankenstein but they are not as strong which gives us hope that he will go a different way. By giving up on his expedition for the sake his man, Walton serves as a counterpart to Victor by not being reckless and ambitious enough to risk lives in order to achieve a scientific breakthrough.
As I said this book is not a horror story – it is not grotesque and it doesn’t evoke fear from the reader but instead, makes him think. It opens up a lot of questions about the lines between the science and the divine, about the morality and about the human psychology. Should we go as further and where is the line we should not cross when we’re bringing science to the next level? Does someone become a monster only because he is treated like one? These questions are still relevant 200 years after this story was published and that should tell you a lot.
The manner of the novel and the language, while very typical for the Roman era, make the novel easy to read. Through the book we follow the point of view of the three main characters, going inside their heads to see every dark place in their souls. The narrative is very different from the ones we are used to nowadays because we have more action within the character’s minds than in the actual reality. The story doesn’t move as fast as I’d hoped and that is the only downside to this novel.
When you consider that Mary Shelley was 18 years-old when she wrote the story and that she publishes it at a time when talking about a scientific creation of life was like slapping the pope across the face, you realize what big of a writing breakthrough this novel was. It is considered to be the first written science fiction and it is the stepping stone of any creative writing about artificial intelligence.
I give this novel 6 DRAGONS
I recommended to everyone who wants to see where the genre of science fiction started and enjoys well written psychological novels that dwell upon the existential questions of intelligence, human nature, and morality.
As always you can watch my video review on the book here.
Keep on reading!